Tagopen source

Blender – 1 Year Later

Last week marks the one year anniversary of when I decided to finally buckle down and dive into Blender. Looking back, can see how much I have learned and I’m quite happy with how far I have come. Comfy with all the departments. I do miss my old desk though.


my render / comp test

Excuses aside, I can tell you that things have not stopped progressing. I’ve developed a few new unique effects, played a LOT with rendering, and cleaned it all up in compositing. I’m blown away.  I really am.

One of the beautiful attributes of open software is that it grows with the community. Sometimes independently developed add-ons become features. Sometimes core features cause a complete overhaul. Through all this, the tool more and more represents the users.

Multiple times, I thought this software was reading my mind.

The sky is the limit and development is accelerating. We are talking about multiple feature release sets per year, that aren’t just bug fixes.

HP Printer in Ubuntu 14.04

I’ve installed HP printers on a laptop prior… though by “install”, I mean that I plugged a printer in and it just worked. Ubuntu uses the open source HPLIP drivers.

This wasn’t the case for my home computer.

I was recently gifted a HP LaserJet P1005 and although it popped up in the printer list, I was unable to print to it. Ubuntu told me the print jobs were sent, but nothing comes out. Some online searching revealed the solution(s).

First, I found this article, which has a commandline sample that ensures my hp-setup command would work.

sudo apt-get install hplip-dbg hplip-gui

Apparently, this is related to a broken printer driver, which can be fixed with the following command.

sudo hp-setup

This install didn’t initially work for me, as I was receiving the following error.

… hplip-3.15.2-plugin.run file does not match its checksum. File may have been corrupted or altered.

To fix this, I followed these instructions and went to the HPLIP website and grabbed the two corresponding files (.run and .asc). Now, when running the hp-setup wizard, it asks if I want to download drivers or use local files.  Go with the local option and browse to the path of the files you just downloaded.

That was it.  Internet saves the day yet again.


Hey YEG, that was a pretty cool open data Hackathon. The potentials demonstrated by the participants in that room had me shivering with excitement. So many useful and brilliantly simple ideas.  The future is bright.

Need some evidence of the potentials of open data? I recommend starting with Jennifer Pahlka’s TED talk on Code for America.

“…platform for people to help themselves and help others.”

At Saturday’s Hackaton, I had the pleasure of meeting some incredible people, super-geeks. I appreciate techs that seem to be almost immune to any technological aversion.

So, back to Saturday’s event…

While at the all-day hacking festival, something was shared with me… and it’s only just now hitting me.

We love this open data. It’s great and more and more of this public/government data is becoming open and available for everyone to plug into.

However, I was told what happens whenever one of these independent volunteers comes up with a great way to present and grant access  to these goldmines of information: The government responds by rebuilding the information tool internally, themselves. This results in the indie project being unsupported, and fading away, unfunded and unappreciated. There’s something about this that doesn’t make sense to me.

It’s not really about “fairness”. It’s about failing to recognize that the idea came from a method. Ideas like this usually grow from a fertile garden of even MORE ideas. It’s about encouraging this open data culture, speeding it’s development.


Finally, just wanted to highlight Trystal.net, which is based on the speedy node.js, this text editor is… well…  how does one glorify a text editor? Well, after playing around with it for a bit, I’m pretty excited about the direction it’s going. Document writing in a more procedural fashion. No more scrolling through pages of documents and re-organizing content is super simple with tried and tested keyboard shortcuts. Super efficient document creation / conversion. Looking forward to seeing where Terry takes this.

Don’t take my word for it.  If you are feeling adventurous, create yourself an account and Open file -> my files -> home … then play around a bit after reading some of the docs. It won’t take more than a few minutes to get comfy with this way of document creation.

Folder & File Structure Visualization

You may have realized that I’m primarily a Linux user, but this post is for anyone managing files on a Windows computer or server.

I have used SequoiaView for managing file space on Windows servers for almost a decade. This tool allows you to visualize your disk usage by creating boxes that represent files and folders.  The larger the box, the bigger the file.  Colors represent the different file types and can be customized.

If you’re wondering where all your drive space went, this is a priceless tool.

That being said, I’ve been stuck on this tool for years and it was time to see what other tools have become available.  Well, I was happy to find an open source alternative that is properly named Windows Directory Statistics (on SourceForge).

Here’s a usage example.


I ran this on my laptop’s Windows partition (dual boot), and saw this massive file taking up WAAAAY too much room.  Selecting the large blue block, I saw that it’s called hyberfil.sys. A quick online search revealed this to be the file that Windows uses when it’s put into Hybernate mode…   which I never use (sparing my SSD the overuse). The online search also revealed a solution on How-To-Geek.

As an administrator, I ran the following command:

powercfg -h off

… and now I’ve got 12GB back!


Have fun managing those videos, MP3s and game installation folders.

Blender – 15 Days Later – Open Source is Home

First question that most have is,

“What is open source? You mean free?”

Yes, it’s free and more.

Open source means that not only are you given the product, but you are given the blueprints as well. If you need to make changes, you have the ability to go in and change the software yourself (or find someone to do it for you). Thousands of copies/variations are out there floating on the Internet. Some flavours are simplified, some complicated, all are customized to various degrees. This means that even if you loose your copy of the product, another copy can always be found…    somewhere.


Web developers are very familiar with this concept, as may of their tools are open source. Some may use commercial software but, in the end, the media itself is open source. You only really need a text editor to do most everything for the web.

Some common things I hear whenever I mention Linux, Gimp, Blender or virtually anything that is open source:

“Because it’s free, it must not have powerful features.”

Over the past 6 years I have probably spent $15,000 on software. I own licenses to multiple versions of Photoshop, yet I still use GIMP because it loads super fast and I can install it on all my computers, or any machine I come to contact with (yes, it was me who installed it on your PC). There’s an unbelievable amount of online support from all over the world, and more tutorials than anyone could ever ask for.

“Linux is complex and the interfaces are confusing.”

Most open source software, in the beginning, can be pretty crude. That being said, most of my multimedia applications have been around for a decade or two, and most of this software is pretty finely polished nowadays. All the open source applications I use are MUCH simpler than the commercial counterparts. In many cases, this simplicity was the primary reason I migrated to many of the free tools. As an example, look at how effectively Blender lets me scale the entire interface. I’ve personally never seen something like this. As for Linux being crude, take a look a this UI demo.

“Gimp, Blender and other open software is buggy.”

I honestly don’t see a difference, though if someone twisted my arm… I would say that commercial software tends to crash more on me that the open source counterparts.  This could be due to the fact that most of my commercial software is on Windows (sorry Microsoft) and that Linux is known to be more stable and recover well from crashes.  Problems are bound to happen and, because open source can be altered, problems are never true show-stoppers. You are probably not alone if you are having trouble, so the answer is almost always already out there to be discovered.

“No professionals use open source software.”

Take a look at the following image.


Darwin by David Revoy

This was created by David Revoy, an artist that has been using open source software for 100% of his work. He uses GIMP, Krita, MyPaint, Blender, all running under Linux. While it used to be a pain to find compatible hardware for Linux…   it’s pretty simple nowadays. Personally, I find that nearly all my devices (including my Wacom drawing tablet) were working without having to download or setup drivers. Real *cough* plug-n-play.

David shares why he chose to go to open source, back in 2009.

Am I happy about this personal choice ? Yes 🙂 and I can without any remorse put my old software license in a box for long term storage, just to show to my ( hypothetic and not yet existing )  grant-children what were …. the proprietary 2D software I started with.

To become more familiar with David Revoy’s work, I highly recommend purchasing his “Chaos and Evolutions” DVD.  If you can’t afford the purchase right now, he’s made the video available on Youtube. He’s using some of the software mentioned above, including Alchemy (tool that Android Jones assisted the develop of).

As I mentioned before, I’ve easily spent $15,000+ on software over the past 6 years (since going independent). I’m putting energy into open source tools because of my own personal issues with licensing commercial software, as well as issues I’ve witnessed my clients struggling with.

I am not saying that commercial software isn’t needed, I’m just saying that it should not be the foundation of a creative production. If the core of a project is open source, this means that all the base products will be available to everyone on the project. If animators want to do a bit of audio testing with their animations, they have Audacity to do some light sound editing of their own.  If a project manager wants to make some slick diagrams in Inkscape, a tool is available to them without spending a few hundred on Adobe Illustrator.

Please keep in mind.  These software are not trying to clone commercial software applications. They have developed and grown over the years, based on feedback from users all around the world. There’s always a learning curve but, like when you learned touch-typing, you’ll be zipping along faster than before, once you get over the initial hump.

Not convinced? Perhaps you have preconceptions based on what you saw 5-6 years ago.  Well, I’m here to tell you that times have changed. Checkout Vimeo and Youtube for some tutorials and you’ll be amazed at what you find. If you’re fortunate enough, perhaps the Vimeo video has a “Download” option available. If that’s the case, then you can save a local copy and watch the video in VLC, where you can use the “[” and “]” keys to control the speed of the tutorial.  I typically run at 130-150% of normal speed.  😉

If you’ve got your checkbook out, you might want to support the current Krita Kickstarter. They’re planning on adding animation functionality, amongst other features.

Blender Days 11 & 12 – Materials, Cycles & L-Systems

Initially setup the materials for Blender’s default renderer and noticed that when I switched to the new Cycles renderer, I lost the materials.  A quick Internet searching revealed a handy addon called Convert Materials to Cycles.

The materials_cycles_converter.py  script created a set of buttons at the bottom of the Properties Editor in the Materials context. You can convert the current material or convert them all.  I’m using Blender 2.69 and the script, which is written for 2.71, worked good for me (color and bump came over).


L-Systems was next up for exploration.

A question came to mind on whether or not the same beautiful branching could be created in Blender, as I had created previously in Houdini.  Searching revealed the VegGen addon, which I’m going to give a whirl (after some compositing and rigging tutorials).  Looks promising, though doesn’t have the ability to write my own turtle rules.  This doesn’t provide much control…   so probably simplest to just write an L-system engine in Python myself…  probably using the VegGen script as reference (Yay! Open source!).


other links:
Blender UI detailed breakdown
Blender.org forum
BlenderArtists.org forum

Robotic Defenses

Currently looking at the latest robotic tech demo from Boston Dynamics (now owned by Google).

Remembering the classic film, “Runaway”, with Tom Selleck.

Plan to fend those buggers off with my own micro-robots using some open source technologies, like PIXY.

Make my own little spiders.

Maybe fool the gait recognition using some of the techniques outlines Doctorow’s book, “Little Brother”.

Speaking of which, CITIZENFOUR is a must-see documentary on Snowden.

Thx to Bobcat for the reminder.

Vim – lighting fast text editor

It sounds like “lightning fast” is just another typical headline for viral Facebook post, which automatically makes me feel as if I’m not giving Vim enough credit.

I typically use basic text when writing on my pc, and I sometimes create light code or html. Since I originally used a Windows machine, I have used Notepad, Context, Notepad++, etc. After moving to Linux, I was usually operating in gedit. It wasn’t until recently till I started shopping for another solution. Since we’re talking about BASIC TEXT, I felt it was pretty critical to choose an open source tool. I don’t like the idea of using a closed source tool in order to help me speak.

I have spent a bit of time looking, testing and reading comment and I think I’ve got a pretty good hold on the text editor options out there. The same names pop up pretty frequently… though one editor has always stood out as being a legend in this area, though it does not have a GUI. Vi or Vim.

I’m a big fan of not having to jump onto the mouse constantly, especially after realizing the RSI that the mouse was causing me.

What is Vim? Alan Thomas does a great job of introducing Vim and looks at it through the lens of “sentences”, comparing the keystrokes to nouns, verbs, etc. He also includes some great example uses.

So now the learning begins. This experience is much like when I had to force myself to touch type. I was slower at typing for a few days, but after 3 days of practice, I was almost twice as fast of a typist as I was before I touch-typed. Initial investment is pretty low compared to the benefits!

First step was to force myself to get comfortable in using hjkl in order to navigate around the page. The first 3 levels of VIM Adventure helped with that.

Other Vim Resources

Learn Vim Progressively

Cheat Sheets
Vim common actions in catagories
Vim Quck Reference Card (PDF)
Best of Vim Tips

Like a Pro
Vim teaser quickly demonstrating some editing magic.
Ben Orenstein’s expert level vim talk (40 minutes) shows how deep you can get.

Why learn Vim?
Best way to master
Is it worth the effort?
7 reasons Vim is your text editor

More Interactive Ways To Learn
OpenVim’s tutorial
Sitting at a Linux computer and want muscle memory to assist your text editing? As Alan reminds us, just type this in a terminal window:

Blender Rig from Sintel Open Movie

Starting to dig into Blender, starting with a free lite version of the character from Sintel.

Sintel Lite

Links to the Vimeo video rig tour, rig and textures can be found here:

Spring Engine : Open Source RTS Game

Just played some Planetary Annihilation and it’s pretty…  but when it comes to an RTS, I’m looking for smart controls…   and that pretty game didn’t cut it.

If you haven’t heard of Spring Engine, I recommend watching this feature video and you’ll start to see what we’re talking about when we say “smart controls”.



Was inspired but some recorded matches of Spring RTS, an open source real-time strategy game, so I recorded a big match that I played versus an AI opponent.  Wanna play?  Well Spring is free, so go download it (or just grab it from the Ubuntu Software Centre).

I will be performing some screen captures on Linux in the future (video tutorials of a 3D animation package), so I wanted to find optimal methods for recording 3D at full HD (1080p).

Settings for recordMyDesktop on Ubuntu 12:10 using Gnome 3:
Video Quality 100
Frames Per Second 30
Encode on Fly: OFF
Zero Compression: ON
Quick Subsampling: OFF
Full shots at very frame: ON

Game was running at 10x speed, and I then doubled it again in my video editor, OpenShot (open source video editor).

DJ mix is by meshdiggity on SoundCloud.

*note:  Remember to switch to HD 1080p!  Make those little dots nice and crisp.

Zen Typing with OmmWriter

Had to type a fairly emotional yet technically accurate email today (not a regular occurrence, luckily), so I used an open source alternative to OmmWriter called FocusWriter. There’s also a closer clone called Catlooking Writer. The only feature that the open source alternatives are lacking is the chromotherapy option.

MyPaint – Free and Under 10MB

Don’t be thinking that this application is a toy because… well.. it is a toy, but a very powerful one.
Download MyPaint (8.5MB) now, for Windows, Linux and Mac.

Jahshaka 3.0

*UPDATE Feb 8th * It seems that there’s more life on the website. They have stated that the product has been delayed to make sure everything is working properly.  Actually, they are calling it a “relaunch”. We shall see!

*UPDATE Feb 1st*  The counters on Jahshaka.com are all at 0 / 0 / 0, yet no software release is to be found. There are quite a few disappointed potential users in the Facebook community, as well as some angry voices in other forums. It has not even been 24 hours yet, and people are already screaming, “SCAM!“.  Well, I hope things change in the next few hours, otherwise there might be some people out there looking for their donations to be returned. Best case scenario is that this is just a PR fail.


Previously known as Cinefx (name change probably due to the effects magazine with the same name), Jahshaka 3.0 is expected out in less than 1 week. I’m truly excited to see what this looks like. A free professional level editor/compositor for Linux?

Take a look at these screenshots.


Blender: My Quick Synopsis

A friend asked me to tell him, “…how cool Blender is (please)“.

So here was my response.

It’s the biggest open source 3D software and Ton (the founder) is a good guy with an honorable vision. It can model, rig, texture, animate, FX, composite and even has a video game engine built in.

The project that is currently in-progress is going to be live action. Google even donated some of its employees to create a 3D camera solving component to help with create high-end visual effects.

Here are some open-source movies that they created using this FREE software.

And Big Buck Bunny certainly displays a high level of quality with it’s fur.

Cottage of Doom

“Cottage of Doom” remains as one of my favorite zombie games. It’s only game where I’ve seen the concept of barricading yourself from zombies done well.

Plus, it was created by a single developer and all the source code is open and free. You can download this tiny game here.

It might not fit with the format of this blog, but a single developer that wins awards for a game that he’s also released the source code for, deserves some recognition. Also, I hope this acts as a ping for him to continue work on Dead Rock, a graphically updated version of Cottage of Doom. He has taken a long break from Dead Rock in order to complete work on Eufloria (which is current in development for the iPad), which also looks slick.

Venom’s Lab – Blender Training DVD Teaser

Did my bi-yearly check on Blender to see if a simplified customizable interface has been implemented yet. Looks like another open source movie is also in the works. This one’s called Durian… like the funky/stinky pod fruit**? No associate intended, I hope.

Blender has some training DVDs coming that look presented, assuming as much work was put into the DVDs as was put into this trailer. Venom’s Lab – Training DVD Teaser from Pablo Vazquez on Vimeo.

** I’ve had the durian fruit a few times. It STINKS… but tastes amazing.

Venom’s Lab – Blender Training DVD Teaser

Did my bi-yearly check on Blender to see if a simplified customizable interface has been implemented yet. Looks like another open source movie is also in the works.  This one’s called Durian…   like the funky/stinky pod fruit**?  No associate intended, I hope.

Blender has some training DVDs coming that look presented, assuming as much work was put into the DVDs as was put into this trailer.  Venom’s Lab – Training DVD Teaser from Pablo Vazquez on Vimeo.

** I’ve had the durian fruit a few times.  It STINKS…  but tastes amazing.

It’s All About the Remix

Momentum is gathering.

Freespace 2 – Open Source Project

The developers released the source code and the public is taking advantage of it.  A Babylon 5 mod, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars and even a Wing Commander saga?

First, you just find yourself a retail copy of the game (from like Good Ol Games) then run the installer which will download a ton of content and convert your game to FreeSpace Open.

If you want more info, Hard-Light Productions is a great place to start.

Free Sounds

  • Incoming quality open source sound effects, starting with Freesound.org.  Complete with handy little volume image icons. #
  • More sounds can be found at soundsnap.com #

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